JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The halftime clock has struck zero and the second half of the season is about to begin for the Jaguars.
The Jaguars (6-2) have returned from their bye week on a five-game winning streak and hoping to continue their success Sunday when the team hosts the San Francisco 49ers (5-3). Almost everyone should be available this weekend, except wide receiver Zay Jones who was limited in practice Wednesday as he still deals with his knee injury. The 49ers will also be well rested as they just completed their bye week as well, but are searching to break their three-game losing streak.
“We still feel that momentum, that energy that we left with you know when we took the week off,” Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence said. “You got to find a way to kind of get that edge back.”
The Jaguars are in a good place: atop the AFC South and one of the best teams in the conference. Despite their slump, the 49ers are tied atop the NFC West and one of the best teams in the NFC.
“Especially in the second half of the season if you want that home field advantage or try to play for home field advantage, you have to do it at home,” Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson said. “That’s why they call it home field advantage. We’ve just got to focus in on that and just continue to improve and play our best ball down the stretch.”
Two of the best running backs in the league will match up this weekend in EverBank Stadium. Looking at the comparison between 49ers back Christian McCaffrey and Jacksonville’s Travis Etienne Jr., McCaffrey is second in the league in rushing touchdowns (nine), while Etienne is third (seven). In total scrimmage yards, McCaffrey leads the league (944) and has 95 more yards than Etienne in second place (583). Looking specifically at rushing yards, McCaffrey leads the league with 652, but Etienne is sixth in the league with 583.
On the NFL’s trade deadline, the 49ers traded for Chase Young and Sunday will be Young’s debut. Add in Nick Bosa on the other side of the defensive line, and now the 49ers have two of the best defensive ends in the league. After his trade announcement, Young told ESPN that it will be a “race to the quarterback” with his former Ohio State teammate.
“I think the difficult part of it is that they’re both great players,” Lawrence said. “That’s what makes it hard. Of course there’s going to be things that you might have to adjust to in a game. You’re kind of guessing what they’re going to do, which side they’re going to play on.”
The season has not been perfect the Jaguars, especially when it began. Pederson says when evaluating the first half of the season, the Jaguars need to work on converting third downs and limiting turnovers.
“The way the defense has played, creating takeaways, short fields, another possession for the offense,” Pederson said. “The ability to stop or at least slow down some good running teams. Those are all some positive takeaways. Obviously both sides of the ball we got to get better on third down. Offensively we’ve kept ourselves in too many third and those eight-plus, long yardage situations. The turnovers that’s something we have to eliminate especially down the stretch. You know you want to get yourself in a position you got to take care of the football. So being able to focus on a couple of those areas. It’s not a whole schematic change. The plays work, we’re just failing to execute.”
Pederson does not like to look too far ahead at their schedule, but the next few weeks for the Jaguars will be against playoff-caliber opponents. In two weeks, the Jaguars will travel to the Houston Texans, who beat the Jaguars at home in Week 3. Then they will play three AFC North opponents in a row in Weeks 13, 14 and 15 — Cincinnati (5-3), Cleveland (5-3), and one of the best AFC teams, Baltimore (7-2).
Sunday’s 1 p.m. kickoff will be broadcast on FOX.